Hop on over to my site, called www.WorkshopsCT.com to learn about my custom made succulenttoppedpumpkins. They make wonderful autumn centerpieces, and now that there is a bit of fall in the air, these are my next fun endeavor. I love making them for orders. They are wonderful displayed inside your home for the fall and Halloween season, and last for months!
I’m also still taking down my tropical plants, probably working on them this weekend during the nice pleasant sunny cool fall weather. We have not had our October frost here yet, so there is still time but alas, my work must continue or I will be backlogged with plants! I have some Brugmansias which are blooming beautifully right now with huge yellow trumpet shaped flowers which smell wonderful in the evenings, as well as my Canna Lily plants, and I still have many elephant ears plants (Alocasia and Colocasia) outside in my larger container gardens. All will be taken down, pulled out of the soil, cut back and stored via the parts under the soil (corms, tubers, rhizomes, etc.) for storage during our winter months. I will show more photos soon but just enter search terms in the search box on this blog to locate directions and information and feel free to ask questions. I also have already collected my seeds from various seed pods by this time and stored them in cool dry places for use next spring to regrow some of my favorites. Pods should not get soggy and wet and be collected before that phase, or they will mold or rot on the plants outdoors at this time of year. I also put away most of my agaves, mangaves (one is shooting a flower stalk – it is 4 feet tall right now! So exciting!) And put my succulents in the greenhouse along with some of my larger house plants. The greenhouse is not being heated of course yet, and the natural air goes thru daily along with an auto fan as the temp rises on sunny days. Anyhow, the fun and plant work continues.
Boy, times are tough for small businesses. Every time I turn around prices are going up. This impact us greatly and we just can not afford to be “low priced” on our unique creations and please bear in mind, plants are perishables similar to vegetables from the grocery stores. Of course, you may make plants last for years, if not centuries, with the appropriate care, so it is a wonderful investment to have the beauty and company of plants surrounding us, but all the delivery costs, shipment fees and delays, materials and you name it, it has raised prices on materials for our industry, from the plants to the decorations we use for them. So thank you for supporting my small business – especially those who repeatedly visit me.
It brings me much joy, honestly, especially in the winter months to continue my work and custom orders. I guess my point is – I’m still planning to make my custom made holiday items as well as my succulent pumpkin centerpieces, but prices have gone up for me as a very small business owner. Custom is not cookie cutter, so if you enjoy unique, handmade, well cared for plant creations – I’m your girl! And also, the weather factors, this year our areas got hit hard with rain and floods – this impacted the availability of pumpkins locally. But this will not stop me from creating because it is my passion. Passions can not be stopped! 🙂
Thank you for visiting.
Cathy Testa Container Crazy CT Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT Zone 6b USA Posted: 10/7/2021 Today’s weather: 54 degrees F, Foggy, H: 73, L:50 Weeknight temps for next week are in the mid 55’s range. Friday and Sat – Party Sunny – yes! Glad we will have nice weekend weather. Next week, looking good too in the mid-60’s to low 70’s, but maybe some rain showers
Yesterday, it began. My first disassembly of a canna lily in a pot to store the underground rhizomes for the winter.
This process may be done anytime between now (September) up to our October frost. Frost may occur anywhere from early to late October in my area of Connecticut (Zone 6).
Because I want to get a head start on my work of overwintering various tropical plants, I did this one yesterday.
It was in a black nursery pot which was inserted into a metal decorative pot. I usually, as a rule, don’t do this – I usually plant the plants into larger patio pots, but alas, I was just too busy and you can see how the rhizomes and root ball area grew so large, it started to burst open the black nursery pot!
I used large pruners to cut the foliage off first, then worked to remove the black pot out of the silver pot – it was tricky!
Since the pot cracked open, I used regular kitchen scissors to cut the pot so I could get the root ball out. Then the real work began, trying to take this big rootbound mass apart.
First, I cut it in half. The rhizomes are usually about 6-8″ from the top and I do my best to not cut any of the rhizomes, but if you do, do not panic. It usually won’t totally harm the rhizomes. However, you do want to avoid too many cuts because cuts are areas where rot or insects can set in later. I also cut off the bottom half of the soil by slicing it off but am very careful not to cut into the rhizomes. Sometimes you may see where the rhizomes are once you start removing the soil areas here and there around it.
After cut off the bottom half of the soil off, cutting below where I think the rhizomes are located, I keep trying to remove soil by hand, with a soft brush, with tools, being careful to not nick the rhizomes.
I usually use a hori-hori garden knife, but I decided to just grab a large kitchen knife to do the work, first slicing it in half. After that, I used my hands and a small butter knife to chip away at the soil mass. I was careful not to cut into the rhizomes. Then after, I took the hose and blasted it with water to remove as much soil as possible. You need a strong spray so this hose end worked perfectly, minus the mosquitos attacking me near the hose at that moment!
Because the roots were so tightly bound up, the hose was really helping to wash away the soil. I really wanted to separate this mass because over time, if they stay in a big clump like this, they just don’t grow as well or produce as many flowers.
After the soil is washed away, it allows for more ease to try to pull apart the rhizomes by grabbing the stalk and tugging. In some cases, they will pull away cleaning without breakage. (Note: The larger clump I am still going to try to break apart after it dries more in the sun.)
I will let these sit on a table for a day or a few hours, and then store them in plastic storage bins in my unheated basement with peat (see type below). I will show the bins later but they are standard plastic storage bins with covers. I drill small holes in the covers to allow air circulation (important). Also, I think shorter horizontal bins work better than deep bins. You don’t want to bury them deep, just enough to cover the rhizomes with peat to help them stay cozy, hold light moisture, and stay dry. All a balancing act.
This is what the canna lily looked like before. It is one of the tallest varieties I have and I want to save some of these rhizomes in good shape. Of course, can I remember the name of it right now? No! LOL. Am I getting old? It will come to me. It is actually not that healthy looking in this photo. It got stressed from being root bound. Next year, it will look much much better. You can store the whole root if you want and I’ve done that before, but it was time for this canna lily to receive more attention so it will grow better from individual rhizomes next season, plus I’ll get more plants that way!
So the one I took down is the far left one. See the one on the right in the blue pot. That one was repotted in spring into that larger pot from a nursery pot. It will probably be easier to pull apart when I work on that one next.
Cut off the stalks of foliage. Use clean, sterilized tools.
Take the root ball out of the pot. Cut off the soil mass “below the rhizomes.”
Take off as much as soil as possible around the rhizomes and roots. Use tools like your hands, soft brush, butter knife (I did), to scrape away soil but be careful not to nick the rhizomes or cut them. A garden hose with a strong blast really works well.
Break apart the rhizomes carefully by grabbing hold of the stalks and pulling. Sometimes they pull away easily. If they don’t, keep trying to remove soil, let it sit out and try again when drier.
Let sit out to dry and cure. (A few hours or a day or two).
Store them in bins with peat (or people have told me they use newspaper but I prefer sphagnum peat moss that is sold in big square bales. It is reusable year after year so I keep the peat in the bins after taking the rhizomes out in spring time.)
Make sure the location you store them is a cool dark place with no chances of freezing. (35 to 40 degrees F is the recommendation). My unheated basement works well by the door inside.
Next spring, plant the rhizomes in a standard nursery pot (1 gallon size) and use good professional potting mix to get them started again. Plant the rhizome about 6-8″ deep in the pot. March is a good time to get them started. I do this in my greenhouse but you can do it by a window in the home where it is warm, etc. Before my greenhouse, I placed them on the floor in the pots by a kitchen slider window.
Grow them in part to full sun when it is after our spring frost time. Usually the same time you may safely plant your tomato seedlings outdoors. Remember, put in shade first for a few days to acclimate.
The photo below is of a bale of the peat moss. It is not the stringy peat you see in hanging baskets – it is the brown peat that you may break apart in a wheelbarrow if you buy a big bale. I reuse it for years if there are no issues in the bins. It is long lasting.
Before or After Frost Timing
From my years of doing this routine, you may do this either before or after October’s frost. If you wait till frost, the foliage will be blackened from the frost. The frost and colder temps probably helps to put them in a dormant state this way, but I always have done it before frost with no issues in September. If you wait till frost, it is just colder outside and sometimes wetter – and messier.
See my prior posts on this topic (search Overwintering or Canna lily in the search box). Some are linked below as well.
Thank you and enjoy your weekend!
Cathy Testa Container Gardener and Designer Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT Today’s date: Sat, 9/11/2021 Today’s forecast: 75 degrees F mid day, sunny with some fluffy clouds – yes! 860-977-9473 “Containercathy@gmail.com”
I had ordered more of the upright giant like elephant’s ear (taro) tubers to grow this spring but some of them gave me problems. There were some soft spots on them but I planted some anyhow and waited to see the outcome.
It took a long time for them to sprout and they grew slowly. Later, however, I noticed two tubers I planted in starter nursery style pots were forming clumps and the leaves looked different than what was to be expected for the tubers I ordered. It turned out two of the tubers were not the type of elephant’s ears I had ordered. They turned out to be a surprise. The company sent me the wrong tubers.
Thus, it looks like I have a new name to memorize! Maybe I will call it Xant for short when I point it out to friends. Upon researching the plant and looking it over, I am pretty sure it is an Xanthosoma. The leaves are shaped with an indentation in the middle (like a shield). It is definitely not the Alocasia (an upright type) I was expecting yet it turned out to be a nice surprise to add to my collection of elephant’s ear plants.
I looked over the veins on the leaves as they were forming and a vein runs along the outside edge of the foliage, a distinct difference compared to my large giant upright elephant’s ears which do not have this particular vein pattern. I’m happy that a mistake was made by the company where I purchased the tubers from because now I have two of these gorgeous plants started. They also form a nice mass or clump of stalks with many leaves.
The location where I put two potted plants of these received part sun all summer since putting them outdoors after our spring frost. I love the way it added to the tropical vibe between the tall canna lily plants. I usually pot ALL my plants into large patio pots with fresh soil but I just inserted the Xanthosoma in a decorative pot (blue one) rather than repot it, and I made the mistake of using an outer decorative blue pot with no drain holes, so every time we had a downpour of rain (often this year in 2021), I would have to take the inner nursery pot used to start the tubers out and pour the rain water out of the outer pot which didn’t drain.
This is considered a tuberous perennial hardy in zones 9-11. It grows about 2-3 feet tall and I will store it the way I do most of my other elephant’s ear plants, by either digging out the tubers and storing in my basement in boxes, or taking the whole plant into my greenhouse for the winter. I probably will put one plant in the greenhouse to see how it tolerates lower temps and store the other via the tuber method.
During the summer, I started to fertilize it weekly and the soil was kept on the moist side all summer because of our routine rainfalls this season, which is what this plant prefers (moist soils). Hopefully, I will be successful at re-growing this variety next season. Eventually the foliage color improved and got darker, etc.
Oh gosh, another long name to memorize! This also is a new plant I tried this season, but not a mistake, a purchase from a local nursery. I saw it and immediately had to have it. It is a ginger plant (variegated with the yellow and green leaves) and I knew it would fit in with my tropical plant vibe.
I know I have the plant tag somewhere in my office. I will have to locate it. I’ve read that gingers are cold-hard in zone 7b, but we are in zone 6, so I have to figure out how to over winter it. Isn’t it gorgeous?!
Of all the new plants on my deck, this one is my favorite and a must keep. I don’t have room for it in the house and I am not sure yet if it will tolerate my low-temp greenhouse for the winter. I am considering dividing and and storing half by digging up the rhizomes and perhaps keeping half of the plant in tact, repot and put it in the greenhouse.
When I first got this plant, I planted it in a big blue planter but it wasn’t happy. The leaves would roll up and seemed to be coiling up from the sun’s heat. So I moved it and it still wasn’t happy mid deck where sun would hit it mid-day. Then I moved it further to the end where there is plenty of shade, and it thrived. It appears to do best in part shade. It also did not like drying out so I kept the soil moist. I always put time released or slow release fertilizer into my potted plants, but I also started to give it a balanced liquid fertilizer every couple weeks or so when I was pouring fertilizer on my other deck blooming plants. It definitely enjoyed that and took off. It is healthy and huge and I just love it. It did not flower however this season.
Learning how to overwinter plants is often a trial and error process. Over the years, I have been very successful with overwintering various tropical plants. These two above will be new ones for me.
I also decided to repot an agave (another one) yesterday. It was in a green tall glazed pot and the pot was so extremely heavy, I knew the soil was staying way too wet. I wondered why, it had a drain hole and so I took the whole plant out and saw the soil was a very dark rich black color, so I think I may have put it compost. Again, rushing is not a good thing. I probably was rushing, grabbed some compost and planted it in that despite knowing agaves need well draining soil. That soil just retained way too much moisture, so I repotted it into a lower pot yesterday, adding perlite to professional potting mix, and put it in the greenhouse. This is a photo I took of it. You can tell the lower leaves are off color – a bit yellow – showing signs of just too much moisture. It should recover now.
I usually don’t get bothered by mosquitoes on my deck or in the yard, but this year, they are on killer attack. It has been difficult to work outside without getting dive bombed by them. They have bit me on the ear lobes, on my face and fingers, and legs. Why do I mention that, I’m not sure, but it makes me wonder how on earth landscapers do it all in this wet weather. For me, my motivations is the love of plants and how it makes me feel every time I look at them. Looking at my two new plants offered me curiosity and relaxation and I certainly want to do my best to keep them so I may regrow them next season.
What is next?
I will probably ask my husband to help me this weekend to move some of my bigger pots into the greenhouse so I don’t hurt myself! And we use the hand-truck and it is not too difficult. As mentioned prior, I’m doing some work early. I’ve already disassembled my tomato planters and I threw out some herbs too. I had to literally talk myself into taking out the herbs because some still looked okay but I had to repeat to myself, take them out – you will be too busy later. I also took down a long shelf style planter with several Mangaves and Agaves and moved them into the greenhouse and put the long two tiered planter in my home. My home doesn’t get enough sunlight for all of the plants, so the planter will be used for something else, we will see!
Next to do will be to disassemble some of my canna lily plants. I really need to take apart the rhizomes and un-crowd the pots. When you leave them in a clump year after year (if you store them that way), eventually they get too pot bound and won’t produce flowers. I also collect seeds this time of year from my Canna lily plants.
I’m also collecting Datura seeds for a new one I planted this season, it has purple upright flowers. Since collecting the seeds for this plant is new to me, we will see if I’m successful. The key is to wait till the seeds are fully ripened, and also to do some research. Each type of plant is different. I read you can put paper bags over the Datura seed pods and let them crack open and the seeds will fall into the bag. I didn’t use this method (yet), but it is a good idea – IF IT DOESN’T RAIN, which it did again last night. This means more mosquitoes! Ack.
One thing I just love about tropical plants is how fast they grow. They really make a show in one season. Years ago when my friends would visit, they would rush to my deck to look at all my plants and see what I had out. However, now I notice they just know I will have lots of plants and don’t seem as “surprised” as they used to, plus many have learned some tricks from me and have tropical plants of their own now. I guess they just expect Cathy T’s deck is always over loaded with plants – and I actually cut back this year. Giggle!
Well, I’m kind of rambling. Sorry about that. Hope this post is helpful or enjoyable – which ever is best for you!
Cathy Testa Container Gardener Connecticut 860-977-9473 Lots of photos on my Instagram under Container Crazy CT Date of this post: 9/10/2021 Today’s Weather: Mostly Sunny 68-70 degrees F This weekend – sunny all weekend –YIPEE!!!
In most cases, we adore the days of rainfall during the summer because it offers a break from watering our container gardens and patio pots, but this year, 2021, we got our fair share of rainstorms and too much at times.
I found that soil remained wet too long in some cases. It stressed our tomatoes, however, most tropical like plants love the rain. For some of my succulents, it was just too soggy. They did fine, but with today’s expected downpours (due to Hurricane Ida remnants passing over Connecticut today, tonight, and tomorrow), once again my succulent plants (agaves, jades, echeverias, etc.) will get more rain pounded on them as they sit in their patio pots. They haven’t had lots of dry periods this season, so the soil has stayed more on the “moist” side than dry side for days.
Because of this, I decided yesterday to move some of my plants onto a deck table with a patio umbrella so they won’t get blasted again. Yes, it is a bit of a PIA (pain in the a**) to move them, but I just don’t want that soil water logged at this point as we transition into September.
I will most likely move some of them to my greenhouse too. I am only doing this as part of my overwintering process early because I have a busy month coming up and this is my only week to get come chores done early. So again, plants may stay outdoors for quite some time, even into early October “for some types of plants.” However, when it comes to my succulents, I don’t like them to stay in a water logged state too long. Fortunately, this weekend’s forcast looks fantastic. It is predicted to be in the mid-70’s with sun from Friday to Saturday (yes!). But it looks like more rain on Labor Day! Rain rain rain this year.
Plants not poorly affected by rain are my tropical plants, such as this upright Alocasia, which I adore. Tropical plants add a real feel of a jungle or rain forest, and I love having that look on my deck because it makes me feel like I’m in Hawaii. If you can’t be somewhere tropical, might as well try to get that feeling at your home.
This plant is showy and grows extremely large leaves. I took the time to measure the biggest leaf yesterday. It is 3 feet height and 3 feet wide with a 3 foot long stalk. In fact, it was hard to hold up the ruler as I tried to take a few photos of it yesterday.
These plants are accustom to dealing with tons of rain fall cause they are from the tropics and are used to it – it is in their genetics, basically. That is cool. With all the strong rainstorms we had this summer, the leaves just kind of tussled around and didn’t break or even tear. Also, the leaves have the ability to shed water droplets and also the texture of the Alocasia leaves allow the water to run off quickly.
Members of the Alocasia, Colocasia, and Xanthosoma are always on my plant list. They grow huge. I love the heart-shaped elephant ear leaves and enjoy looking at them every single day. In fact, my jungle look is at the end of my house by my bedroom, so I see this via a slider door and have watched hummingbirds visit quite a bit this year as they go to the orange tubular flowers below this Alocasia shown above.
Another plant which has done well despite the rain is my Mandevilla. In fact, the Mandevilla twined around one of the stalks of the Alocasia this summer as it reached out for places to twine as it grew. This one is called, Alice Du Pont, and it is a plant which I overwintered last year in my basement in the pot. I took it out early to start growing in my greenhouse and then planted it in a big raised bed like planter on my deck. I fed it bloom booster water soluble food about once a week for a time in the middle of the summer and it has bloom beautifully. It is considered a tropical vine and works well when trying to create that jungle look with some trumpet like gorgeous hot rose colored flowers.
These tropical plants will grow well into early fall. I perform a combo of overwintering techniques from mid September till mid-October. Some are stored in their small pots in my basement or greenhouse, some are taken down (foliage and tops cut off) and tubers or rhizomes below are stored in boxes in my unheated but not freezing basement. And some are kept going by harvesting seeds and sowing them next season. The Mandevilla (and Dipladenia) can be a little tricky to overwinter and get growing again. It helps that I can start them early in the greenhouse. I started some others and they did not take off or produce as many blooms. You can’t win them all in the world of nature. There are just so many factors which are out of your control. Like rain for example, but then again, rain is a helper at times as well. Mandevilla are stored as dormant plants in a dark place at about 40 degrees F over the winter. The soil should not completely 100% dry out but stay more on the dry side than wet.
As for the Alocasia noted above, also known as Elephant’s Ear or Taro, I’ve dUg them up and divided off any side shoots as well as put the tubers in boxes in my unheated basement. I’ve detailed the steps in prior blog posts on this site. This spring, I did encounter a problem. Some of my tubers were soft in spots which usually doesn’t happen. I know what I did wrong. I used “new boxes and bins” and neglected to drill some air holes in the covers. I was rushing because I was busy. I planted them anyways in spring but they were really slow to grow AND I was worried the rotted parts would ruin the whole process. Some made it and some others were tossed. The tubers must be stored in a dry cool place, away from any chances of freezing, and after the plants go dormant for the winter. I hope I will be more successful this year. Time to get the drill out!
This photo is of my Ensete (red banana plant) with Castor Bean plant (left) and another type of elephant’s ear on the right. It is the first time in years that I did not directly plant the Ensete into the large square big cement planter. I planted it into a big pot and set it into the big cement planter. I got a little lazy and busy, but it is doing just fine. It still grew massive leaves and looks super healthy. I added compost to the soilless potting mix in the black pot. I grew the castor bean from seeds of last year and the elephant ear from a stored tuber. I won’t be working on these plants until early October.
Well, I think it is time to go work in the light rain before the harsh rain arrives later today and will be pounding overnight. We have seen a lot of flooded areas around here, ditches over flowing, damp lawns, and run off. We even got a huge sink hole down the road from rain this season. It is at least 6 feet deep. We are lucky compared to the people in NOLA. I can’t imagine what they are going through and they are in our thoughts.
One last thing – other methods for dealing with rain (drain holes are a must in pots, elevating the pots with plant saucers or trays, moving them under tables, and spacing them out so air flow circulates around the patio pots after the rainstorm, and maybe even a fan. Yes, I put a fan on my tomato plants this summer, it was that wet out there!)
When we (my husband, Steve, and I) redid our kitchen, many years ago, I insisted on having a kitchen window above the sink area because knew I wanted to put some plants in there.
OUR KITCHEN GARDEN WINDOW
Our kitchen garden window faces south and sticks out and is about 3 feet by 2 feet, and it has a long shelf in the middle, so I can put plants on the shelf above or below at the counter sink height. The window gets colder in the winter because it is sticking out and experiences the cold air around it. In the summer, however, it gets very warm at times, but I can vent it by cranking open the side window panels. But in either scenario, the kitchen window was useful for not only putting some smaller winter plants in there, but to put some herbs in there for use in my cooking. The kitchen window type looks like the ones on this Pinterest page: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/460070918175924579/
This little area, if you happen to have a similar kitchen window over your sink in your home, is a decent place to grow some kitchen herbs. But some herbs are easier to grow than others, especially if you are a beginner not knowing where to start.
In my opinion, parsley and salad mixes are two easy seeds to give a try. Salad mixes are not herbs, but I wanted to mention them because many leafy salad mixes are easy to grow from seed and put in a smaller container in the kitchen window, and so is parsley. If you are a beginner, grab some seed of these now (or buy from me) and then start your venture of growing herbs for the first time in your kitchen (and from seed)!
Other herbs you may see listed as easy to grow from seed in the kitchen are basil, chives, and mint.
Basils (needs warmth!)
I agree on the basil, it is easy to sow and grow EXCEPT it has to be warm. They will not do well if your kitchen window (like mine that sticks out) when it is cooler – which is the case right now in winter. So basils, I would not recommend in a cool spot during the winter months. You may start basil in seedling trays if you wish and if you have a warm, sunny spot in your home. In the summer months, you can continuously sow the seed all summer for a steady ongoing supply, but they are very sensitive to cold temperatures.
In the summer months, a kitchen garden window with enough sunlight is a great place to grow your basils in pots if you wanted. There is also a type of basil I tried last season, sacred basil, which is primarily used in teas. I have seed available too if nearby and interested. What I liked about the sacred basil is it grew fast and plentiful in my patio pots and it bloomed all summer. The bees adored it. In fact, I rather enjoyed it as a decorative plant maybe more so than harvesting it as a tea.
The only thing to consider if you want to try basil from seed to have in your kitchen window, it is best if you find a warm location in your home to start them in a seedling tray (somewhere warmer), otherwise they will suffer the kitchen window in the winter months. The types of basil I have grown from seed are Thai, Genovese Basil (big leaves great for pesto and other things!), and Sacred basil.
We all love basil for kitchen gardening, and you may start seedling trays of it ahead indoors and transplant it to patio pots in the summer months. I have done this with several types of basils. Usually I start them by seed in April (4 weeks before our last frost date) to transplant into pots or move outdoors in late May. I’m not trying to discourage growing basil from seed cause it is not that difficult to do but it does need warmth.
Basil is definitely a kitchen desire however, we all love basils, at least I do and I must have it for adding to fresh tomatoes. It is so easy to use. Just chop it up, add it to warm pasta with fresh cut up tomatoes, no cooking and toss – add some cheese, and wow, yummy! But all I’m saying is basil likes warmth to grow well from seed.
Chives (New for me)
Chives is a new one for me to try and I have seed, so I will comment on that later this season. I love adding flavors to dishes, and chives has that oniony like flavor, so I picked it to test out this season. It also has an upright habit and I think will do fine in smaller pots, or in a kitchen window garden. However, some chives are considered aggressive in the outdoor gardens, which I will research. I’m only alerting you to this in the event you are considering growing herbs from seeds and transplanting them outdoors later in the summer. While some sites will say chives are easy to start, I haven’t tried them yet so I can not comment. I’ve also seen dill and cilantro as listed easy which I disagree on only because I’ve seen those suffer more as plants than other herbs. The type of seed I got for chives is a perennial herb, so it will come back the following season when grown in the ground. But you may start chives indoors and eat them like scallions. Even their purple round flowers are edible and look pretty in salads!
Mint (Cuttings are easy)
Mint – yes, easy to grow BUT mint is very aggressive in the ground, so if you decided you wanted to grow some mint in your kitchen window, you could try this one but if you wanted to transplant it to the garden outdoors, don’t do that – it spreads by the roots like wild fire. It is a okay outdoors in patio pots and containers where the roots are contained (and sitting on a surface which is not the ground, the roots will come out of the drain holes and go into the earth).
Mint is fun to grab snips of it when you are having fresh cocktails outdoors in the summer. Mint is not just for teas either. I like tossing it with fresh warm pasta right out of the strainer and adding fresh parmesan cheese and a bit of frozen bagged peas – sounds funny but it is yummy! And so simple. I don’t even cook the peas, I just make sure to toss it all when the pasta is very warm from the pot, and all the fresh flavors blend. If you like mint flavors, like I do. My cousin, Maryse, makes a watermelon feta salad with mint in the summer, it is just delicious!
However, I must admit, I have not started mint from seeds only because mint is so easy to find in garden centers AND it is very easy to start mint by taking cuttings. Just snip some stems, stick in water on your window sill, and roots will form. Then transplant to a pot in your kitchen garden and it grows easily. Then continue to harvest leaves, stems, or snips for your many recipes. I tend to put mint as a spiller plant (a plant which trails or spills from the edge of pots) in the outdoor container gardens in the summer months because they tend to grow fast and large (maybe too large for a kitchen garden). Everything from chocolate mint to orange mint. I have not grown mint from seeds yet.
Now let’s get back to the parsley and salad mixes, two easy ones.
Parsley (Can take cooler temps)
Parsley will germinate (begin to sprout/grow from seeds) a bit slower than other herbs, but it is easy to grow from the time it surfaces from the soil. It is also very easy to sow into a pot. Last year, I grew curly parsley (top left in the photo above). This year I’m growing the flat-leaf Italian parsley from seed, which will be a larger type of plant compared to curly parsley, but I love parsley – so each type to grow from seed is great for me.
I do find that flat leaf parsley is more flavorful, but I used the curly parsley all winter! Yes, I grew it from seed and hung baskets of it from my curtain rod in the area to the right of my kitchen sink. There is a slider door there and I hung it up and let them grow. I clipped from it so many times, I can’t count. I used it in pasta sauces (guess I like pasta), soups, sometimes fresh on a salad for a bit of parsley flavor and crunch, and to top other things. Kind of using the curly parsley as a garnish which you eat.
And parsley just continues to grow as you take snips from it. However, I did notice that it did not grow as vigorously as it did in my greenhouse. My greenhouse has lots of sun light on sunny days in the winter, so it thrived there, but when I moved it to my kitchen slider window, it slowed down a bit but still was plentiful. I will get to light in a minute, but overall what I am saying is parsley is a candidate if you are a beginner.
Parsley may be started 8 weeks before frost indoors which is around mid-March for my area of Connecticut, but because it doesn’t mind the cooler weather, I have sowed parsley all winter in my greenhouse and then I moved them to indoors to my south facing kitchen slider. If you have a warmer window in the home with sunlight, parsley is easier as a first type of herb to try from seed compared to basil. One thing to bear in mind with parsley seeds is they can be slow to germinate, but once they surface they grow fast.
Salad is not an herb but it is another kitchen item you could try that is simpler in my opinion to grow from seed. And salad mixes don’t mind the cooler temperatures in the kitchen window. But, in the summer, if the salad mix gets too hot – it bolts (shoots up flowers) and isn’t as tasty. Another great thing about salad mixes is you may cut from them from your pot or indoor window box and they will grow and grow continuously usually for a while, until you eat it all up. They like the cooler temps.
You can cut from it to have it at a baby leaf stage and add your herbs, such as the chives, basil, and parsley – and voila, you are a chef in the kitchen. Plus, taking snips of salad leaves off these right in your kitchen is kind of fun. And pretty. Salad mixes are typical various greens and look pretty together.
When I say salad mixes, I mean leafy salad (unlike romaine or something like head lettuce). It is also called Salad Greens, rather than lettuce, if you look for seed packets. I often sow salad mix seed in smaller window boxes. And usually start the seed I have in early March at the 10 week before frost date. Here’s a photo of a mix I did in a smaller window box. See how wonderful the mix of greens look! Think of this, March is around the corner. Only 2 weeks away from when I’m writing this (which today is 2/11/2021).
Self Watering Pots
My sister, Rosalie, contacted me after she saw how I had parsley baskets hanging from my curtain rod in my kitchen area. She is going to hang some pots in-front of her kitchen window this year. Her window does not stick out but it is right above her kitchen and gets sun. She is going to give it a try.
One recommendation I gave Rosalie was to use “self-watering” pots – those which have no hole in the bottom and are inserted into another holding pot, so it won’t drip down on her counters. A water reservoir sits below the pot to water the plants, but you have to be cautious of not overwatering because it does not drain out either. Wet roots are not good so anyhow, the reason I said self-watering is because they won’t drip.
However, for a kitchen area, these work well. And by the way, if you go get window boxes to try this, be sure it has a drain tray below it – otherwise when you water, it will drip out onto your surfaces. Most window boxes are designed with that little tray below it.
How to Start
Now, onto the how to’s.
To keep it simple, here are my recommendations:
(1) Determine if you have a warm enough spot in the home. If you have a kitchen window like mine, and it faces south or west, it is doable. If it faces north, you won’t get enough sun and usually north facing windows are colder and too cold. East is questionable as well. You only get morning sun in an east window. But the south and west windows typically get decent sunlight. You need sun to make your plants thrive. No sun, no plants.
(2) Get the easy seeds, and if you are local, I have seed packets and kits available and will guide you. Local is East Windsor, Connecticut or nearby towns, such as Ellington, South Windsor, Enfield, Windsor Locks, etc. I am offering free delivery to local residents in my town (East Windsor, CT) right now.
Another tip: Don’t buy too many seed packets – seeds for parsley are usually plentiful in a packet! A packet of parsley could fill many smaller pots (like 5-6″ in diameter) as an example. At least the seed packets I sell have lots of seeds, up to 200 hundred for parsley. And one more tip, parsley seeds do not last long, you should use them the first or second year tops.
(3) Get your containers, pots, smaller window boxes, or whatever you want to start your seeds in. Again, parsley can be directly sown (seeded) in the pot to start them. You don’t need to start them in seedling trays and transplant them into your pots. You can sow them directly in the pots or window boxes which I recommend get smaller sizes for the pots or window boxes. This is the case with the salad mix as well. It may be sown/seeded directly into the window box to start them from seeds indoors. Key thing is make sure whatever pot you have has some type of drainage holes. That is critical and self-watering pots drain to a pot as well but it drains into a reservoir. If other pots or window boxes don’t have holes, you will need to drill them. And of course, consider the weight of the pots – maybe you will hang them from macramé hangers and if they are heavy, they could be an issue. Think about the area and sizes.
(4) Get your seedling mix sold in bags. Potting mix (for container gardens, patio pots) works too. Do not use dirt from the ground! It is too dense and does not drain well, will be too heavy and could harbor many problems. Get at least 4 to 6 quarts of seedling mix and make sure the bag is fresh, etc. Seedling mix is written on the bag and should be available now at your local garden centers or stores like Agway. And again, my kits have some mix in the kits to start your sowing of seeds indoors. Pre-moisten the mix a bit before you put it into your pots.
(5) Sow the parsley or salad mix seed directly into the top of the pot filled with your seedling mix to about 1/4″ from the top. Only a few seeds (some say a pinch of like 5-6 seeds) and lightly cover it (the seeds) with seedling mix. I give specifics on seeds in my kits but the seed packet also tells you the depth of the seed, etc. Since the seed are so tiny for parsley and salad mixes, you scatter it over the top of the soil and gently cover it with the seedling mix. Then water gently – I give more details in my instructions to buyers so this is in simple terms.
(6) Place them in a warmer location if possibleat first – say your kitchen bay like window is cold like mine in the winter, it will be too cold to germinate the seeds, but if you have warm spot – like a window with the heating radiator below it or maybe even on the floor near a slider window that faces south or west, or a table in a warm spot in your home by a window with some sun, start them there then hang them in your window or place them into your garden kitchen window after they germinate or place them on the shelf in the kitchen window.
Similar to what I did with my baskets of herbs, I started them in a warmer spot, they germinated (sprouted) and grew a little, and then I hung them on the south facing slider window area for as long as they lasted. If the area where you are trying to get the seeds to sprout is too cold, it will be very slow to germinate and not sprout from the soil. Hope this is making sense. On top of it – parsley seed is slower in general to germinate – just how that seed is, so be patient. If you want to take it a step higher, get a heat mat to put below the pots or window box, and or get some grow lights.
Or if your kitchen garden window gets lots of sun, you may start them there. But a cold area in the home is a no-go. If you have a sun room for example, and it is cold, it won’t work. If you have a window with a big cold draft, that will keep the potting or seedling mix too cold. Roots do not like cold and it will slow the growth.
Grocery store herbs
Oh, another quick thought – those herbs you buy in the grocery store that are in little black pots with soil. I don’t find they continue to grow all that well in winter inside the home (especially the basil). But in the summer, basil are easier to keep growing either indoors or outdoors (again because they like warmth). This is just based on my experience. I’ve been working with plants for 10 years, and every time I didn’t have basil handy, and grabbed one of those pots in the grocery store, and placed it on my kitchen bay window area, it kind of didn’t thrive. Probably, again because the bay kitchen window is too cold in the winter.
I hope this post helps you if you are a beginner. I’ve done all my gardening in pots of all shapes and sizes, and this is referred to as “container gardening.” Gardening with herbs in pots or window boxes to me, is a form of container gardening. Container gardening is a great way to learn. There are tons of sites out there with tips on how to grow herbs, and I sense many want to grow herbs indoors in their kitchen. Start off small and learn. Let me know how you make out! Comment below. Thanks!!
Cathy Testa Container Crazy CT Location: Broad Brook Section of East Windsor, CT
I shared this photo yesterday, on a whim, on my personal Facebook page and received lots of comments. Most people wrote things like, “You look so happy!” or “This is a great photo.”
I have to say, I am THE most happy at the moment right then, right before I would be completely ready for my holiday workshops to begin for my annual wreaths and kissing balls attendees.
This photo, taken two years ago, was on a sparkling, yet brisk cold, December morning. I got up early before all the wonderful attendees arrive, working diligently with my helpful and happy husband to get all the beautiful fresh mixed greens on tables. All this work always took place right before the workshop was to start on the day off.
From fresh Balsam Firs, so traditional for the Christmas scents we are familiar with, to elegant florals such as Berried Eucalyptus. All would be carefully placed on rustic tables and shelves. Some bundles were placed in red plastic bins or galvanized rustic buckets in wheel barrels. Whatever we had on hand to make all the taking easy for everyone.
It would be so pretty when we were done setting all the greens up. I would be freezing cold at times with the tips of my fingers being numb even while wearing gloves, and feel like my eyes were tired (why the big sunglasses over my eye glasses in that photo), yet, I always took the time for photos to capture these moments just before guests would begin to arrive. Every minute, from our first sip of coffee that day till the start time of my holiday workshop was consumed with work for both me and my husband.
There have been many years where I was completely exhausted from all the organizing type stresses. Will my greens by okay? Will there be enough greens? Will I be able to handle a group of 35-40 very excited women ready to make wreaths?! Will the weather cooperate? Will it be windy? Usually all my anticipation would start to fill my mind, of course, as I laid my head on the pillow the evenings before the big workshop days.
The days or even weeks before the event, I would start to decorate here and there, adding holiday touches in my home, on my property, and in the staging area for the greens. I always wanted to make everything perfect, or as best as possible. It needed to be a cozy, organized, and a welcoming event.
We would stage all the fresh holiday greens, many varieties, in a beautiful wood shed, which my husband built for his wood. For many years, he sacrificed the space on one side for us, for this workshop event, for the ladies. What a man, Mr. KB Claus. He never once complained about that. This year, of course, it is all filled with his stacked wood. And he just happily stacked his wood this year without ever a mention of how he gave up the space all those years prior for my workshops.
It almost looked like a manger on my holiday workshop days, as one attendee stated one year. It wouldn’t be long before I learned, I need elf helpers because the large group took a lot of coordinated effort, and fortunately for me, I am blessed with three close friends who offered to help me and my hubby.
But this year is different, very different. My holiday offerings are different, our upcoming family and friend gatherings are different, and our holiday anticipation, in many ways, will be different. All due to COVID entering our worlds. Who would EVER imagine COVID would be here still in the month of November. Into, what eight months, since this all started in March? My goodness!
So this year, as I’ve noted, I am taking custom orders for wreaths and kissing balls, as well as offering fresh greens by the box. All the details are outlined on my site, http://www.WorkshopsCT.com. I have my holiday face mask ready to greet anyone coming by for orders, and my helpful and festive hubby already built a stand for safe zero contact porch-pick-ups. Well, it will be driveway pick-ups this year. The stand he built is from wood limbs of trees around our property, which make it rustic looking. I can’t wait to hang my custom wreaths and kissing balls on it for orders. I think it will look pretty. And this starts next week, immediately after Thanksgiving Day.
So who am I? Well, I guess this holiday season, I am still Mrs. KB Claus but in a different format. Not sure what my title will be but I do know, I thoroughly enjoy working with the beautiful fresh holiday greens creating and it will certainly help ease our COVID situations. Creating with greens is an amazing escape from any concerns we may have as we stay safe at home. And I’m sure my husband will tolerate all my antics along the way!
This photo caught people’s attention yesterday when I posted it on Instagram and on my business Facebook page.
One commented (a friend and attendee of my workshops) with, and I quote, “That would be dried up, shriveled and dead at my house!” Another comment, on the Instagram feed, was, “Love the color!” And the photo post was doing better than 95% of my recent posts per Instagram’s notices on my feed.
Well, the darker color was the reason I brought a full tray of them to my greenhouse last spring to offer in my workshops, specifically the hanging baskets workshop with succulents. I wanted to make sure we had some to offer contrast in color.
I had asked my grower prior, can you make sure to include some Echeverias with darker tones if possible? When I saw the tray of them at the grower’s later as I arrived, my eye’s did that heart pounding thing which you see on emoji faces grinning with two hearts for eyes. Wow, those are beautiful and I knew I had to have them, and they made me very happy indeed then and since.
The full tray of consisted of 40 perfect darker toned Echeverias, and they all were sold except for 12 last season, which here they are in the orange trays, showcasing their dark tones in my greenhouse in the beginning of winter. Aren’t they amazing? Really!
These Echeverias have kept their form, have not shriveled up, and liked being rather neglected in regards to no water for a long time, which is fine for many succulents in the winter. However, if you don’t water some succulents, they will start to show signs of neglect by shriveling up, but these did not do this and seem a bit more resilient.
Inspecting your succulents during the winter months is important. I don’t have to visit my greenhouse ‘every day’ right now but I do have to go there to look around within a few weeks cause if you see a critter, you want to act on it right away.
As I poked around and sighed at the messy parts of the greenhouse yesterday, I did a quick inspection of everything as best as I could. Picking up trays and looking closely. I decided to move these plants into orange trays, and that is when I grabbed my iPhone to take a photo. The orange with the dark colored succulents was striking.
Watering and Inspecting
First, I looked to see if anything needed a drink, then I looked closely to make sure no aphids were present on any of my plants or cuttings, and then I tossed some things. Yup, that is the MOST difficult thing to do but sometimes you know there won’t be a use, as least right now, of some of the cuttings I have waiting to be taken care of and I decided to toss some. Ack! I hate doing that but I did.
But when I laid my eyes upon those darker toned Echeverias, still in stock – a nice grouping of 12, I thought to myself, wow, am I glad I got those. And look at them now. Plump, full, and a nice color in the middle of winter. I wish all succulents would stay this beautiful for this long. Look Ma, No Stretching!
When I asked the name last spring of this succulent, my grower said, they are Echeveriapurpusorum Berger. If you Google it, you may find this description by one site. It was the first to appear on the top of my Google page:
Echeveria Purpusorum Rose A. Berger is a striking echeveria with deep olive green leaves embellished by small brownish red spots. The leaves are pointy and don’t have the white powdery coat like other Echeverias, making this species have a firmer and less fragile look.
I wholeheartedly agree – these are “firmer” and not fragile. The main reason I wanted them though, last year was because I enjoy adding the contrast in color with a darker toned succulent in arrangements and the hanging baskets, etc. It has a kind of plum-purple color, brown color, or even an olive green color in the right light. It is a darker tone which makes the other succulents stand out in the design or arrangement.
Speaking of light, it gets plenty of sunlight in my greenhouse on days like today when the sun is shining. They are sitting on a shelf facing the south side and it gets very warm on sunny days in the greenhouse, it can reach to 90 degrees F sometimes, but most days are cloudy and it stays more on the cooler side, about 55 to 60 degrees F in winter. On sunny days, I try to take a break from my office work to visit, water, inspect and get some Vitamin D.
If you google this Echeveria, I’m amazed at the range of prices it goes for from various sites from Etsy to whatever’s. In fact, someone was trying to sell a damaged one for a lot! I think that is funny. But heck, if they are able to make a business that way, what am I missing?
I tend to keep a good eye on my plants and I want them to be perfect but that is not always easy. Yes, succulents may be neglected for a long time, but they will look like total crap if you neglect them too long. Believe me, I’ve seen succulents at places (won’t say where) and think, OMG, they haven’t watered in forever. They are low water plants but not no water. Even in the winter, a little bit is good for them from time to time. But for the most part, they are drought tolerant and need lots less water this time of year. I won’t go into how to water them here right now but there are good methods to keep them happy. That is for another blog post or for a future workshop.
If you do a bit of research on Echeverias, you will learn they are native to Texas, Mexico, and Central and South America. There are so many colors and many are on the softer side of coloring from soft blues to light pinks. Some are green and others are trimmed in red edges. Finding a nice dark rich color is not always easy, but I did last season, thanks to a wonderful grower. They know who they are (Thank you).
One seller’s site online listed them as a “collector’s” succulent. Hmm, was I giving them away last summer? LOL! Anyhow, regardless of the prices, descriptions, and if they are in vogue or not, I do find this variety to be a keeper, and if you are interested in one of the healthy 12 I have in my greenhouse right now, just shoot me a text. You know where to find me.
When watching talk shows the other day, I realized so much was being shown regarding the “Top Nine” app used to generate the top nine photos in a grid format from Instagram feeds and it perked my curiosity.
I caved and did it – and here it is:
Apparently, this is not an “Instagram” thing but a separate app but using Instagram – and it became popular and a bit of a trend. We may all assume the reason why? Because your curiosity kills the cat – you have to know – Gee, what is my top nine (most liked or most engaged photos of the year) per some app? Well, mine are above.
To be honest, it surprised me which were selected. How do they determine which photos are selected? I guess it is based on likes, shares, and engagement? Not sure, and I don’t have the right mind after the holiday hoop-la to research that aspect right now, but I did find it interesting and a bit of fun to use the app to find out.
My Photo Grid Explanation:
From left to right (starting from the top row), I thought it would be entertaining to say what I think of each of these photos which were generated by the Top Nine app.
The Jade Plant (Crassulas) – Ah, this is one plant I became involved with in 2019. Meaning, I propagated it (made cuttings and grew new plants) from it quite a bit. It is rather easy actually. I also used this plant in some of my install jobs in various containers. And offered them in my succulents workshops. But what would make it a top photo is the fact that I feel I can grow them myself and they are healthy and happy! Maybe people enjoyed the photo due to the Indigo Blue Background which is a popular color right now I heard.
The Beach Shot – That was a vacation my husband and I took last year in Naples, Florida. I wanted to make sure we’d go see the sunset which I had read about being wonderful on this beach, and we joined many other people that day doing the same. I guess that is a good photo, right? And it WAS a great afternoon waiting for the sun to set.
The Yellow Peppers – Grown from seed, hot and tasty. I love these yellow long banana shaped peppers, which I wrote about in my seedlings topics on this blog and for the workshop which I offered on seed starting last year too. So, yes, I agree on this photo. The peppers were easy to grow, abundant, and we ground them up after drying them in the oven to make hot pepper flakes of the yellow variety. They did not go wasted. My husband loves hot peppers and he shook those flakes on his various meals many times. We went thru two jars of the hot pepper flakes. Great for chili recipes too.
The Blue Pots – Ah, yes. I was on the hunt for a client, trying to find pots. I kind of knew these weren’t the right ones. I had put them on the floor and took a photo. You will see my hiking boots there as I looked down in the photo. But for some reason, this photo was popular with people on Instagram. However, it was not quite the right fit and I later found a better style and color for my clients’ needs. But that was a journey on a day of hunting for just the right patio pots. Pinch me – I love that type of work.
The Flyer in the Window – My workshop flyer was posted in a local package store’s window. I always appreciate when they share my flyers about my workshops. I guess that day, it was noticed quite a bit and thus, another top nine. I would say these clients are tops too. They have hired me for years to install their store-front pots. I do think the flyers look great in their store’s windows. Thank you!
The Cacti Cans – I pounded small drain holes in the bottom of soup cans with a hammer and nail last year and inserted a cactus in each. No drill required which I loved. And I even hand-stamped the sides of some of the cans with words and added chains to some to hang the cans. They are adorable. However, in the rain, one thing I forgot about is the cans start to rust. I did’t like the rusty look. That day a flower was blooming on one, as you can see, and it was adorable, so I snapped a photo.
The Burro Tail Sedum – I obtained a stock of these from a grower to provide in my succulent related workshops last year. Everyone loves these plants, which drip down into long tails as they grow over time. They work well in hanging baskets – which was a topic I offered last year too. These plants are great fillers in arrangements and easy to grow, drought tolerant and long living. I still have some growing in my hanging baskets in the greenhouse now. I can see why a popular photo – and those who got them in my workshops surely loved them. Thanks to my amazing grower, I obtained a nice stock of them last year.
A Photo of Me – From many years ago. What I like about this photo is that my red head planter, the little red table with red chairs, and the red blooms of the Canna Lily plants in the background were all happening. I spray painted that little round table and the chairs red. It was a freebie find on the side of the road one day. My sister was annoyed cause it was on her street when I found it as I was leaving her house. She joked that was supposed to be her free find.
The Cherry Tomato Leaf – This is all about my obsession with plants. I love taking close up shots of plants and their structures. It was also probably popular cause we all dream of eating fresh tomatoes. The photo was taken in March or early April, and the handwriting on the label is not mine – it is of an attendee’s who came to my workshop on seed starting last year. That will be my first project, setting up the Seed Starting Workshop for 2020. I can’t resist doing it – it was very rewarding. Seats will be limited because the plants are kept in my greenhouse until they are ready to be planted outdoors. Unless, of course, I got a bigger greenhouse.
By the way, this is what CNN has to say about the Top Nine app and trend. You may want to read their article before you try it!
Wow, ten years since I started these holiday workshops. These workshops began because I felt inspired by the holiday round greenery kissing balls I’d see when visiting relatives’ homes in Canada. Then, one day, a cousin asked me to help her making kissing balls and I did.
We spent all day making them. I said, “Hey, this would be a fun class to teach.” She agreed. We drove to a place where I get all my supplies a few days later, and said, “We can split all the expenses and do this.” Yet, she responded with, “No.” She said it was “my thing and that she didn’t want to participate in teaching it.”
So, there you have it – this is how it all started, and me being a plant person, this workshop was a perfect fit for me to add to my workshop offerings as part of my small business. I could teach about the greens and create a wonderful holiday decor item.
From that spark of a suggestion, my annual kissing ball workshops evolved over the years. I started to learn how to make wreaths myself, improved the KB making technique with new ideas, and then I added new creative items, which attendees may elect to make at the workshops, such as, the candy cane wreath, horse head wreath, square wreath, cross wreath, and more. Each year, it became more and more creative. And it grew with holiday spirit and in attendance.
The KB workshops kicks off everyone’s season – so they tell me. The “regulars” tell me it is the thing that makes them get into the holiday mood. This makes me so happy. Not to get mushy, but I didn’t have any children, and you know, I have always, always missed that part of what it must be like to have kids getting up on Christmas morning to unwrap their presents. Somehow, this event has filled that void for me during the holidays. The KB workshop is my highlight of the holiday season.
In my case, the holiday spirit starts taking hold in early November. Every single year, I start cleaning the messes in my workshop space to get things ready. I’m alone and working in the cold because the wood stove isn’t running yet. I start sorting holiday items, taking count of stock, cleaning, dusting, moving items to make space, and then comes moving in the tables and chairs, etc.
All of this pre-work to setup the workshop space takes time but it has become a good ritual for me. As I work on the various aspects, I start to think about the laughter, the smells of freshly cut balsam and all the fresh greens which the attendees cut at the workshop, and the images of the past ten years pop into my mind. I usually put on some holiday music as I do my thing setting up. This helps the holiday magic fill the air.
As my mind starts to wander, I even smile sometimes as I clean due to the memories. I may even laugh when I start thinking about something in particular that happened, or whatever. I just start thinking about all the attendees in this space every December. I think about the chaos of it all – usually, it is good chaos. Everyone is excited and getting into the holiday decorating zone. But sometimes, it is other chaos of just getting all the holiday ducks in a row.
The memories are good and so is the setup but it also reminds me that some people, though, sadly, I’ve learned over the years, are struggling at that time of year – but not showing it. Maybe something recent happened in their life and they feel down or alone. But, they still show up here for the KB workshop regardless, pull up their big holiday panties, and realize, hey, I can hopefully break out of my doldrums by being here at Cathy T’s KB Workshop. And they tend to feel better afterward the workshop. This makes me happy too.
Ten years. I never thought I’d be offering this workshop for ten years. How can it be even ten years already? I remember joking once, I’ll be a little old lady with gray hairs doing this workshop – but can I make it that long? I even feel I put on weight this time of year in preparation for being Mrs. Cathy Clause at the KB workshop. Seriously!
I’ve stressed out on so many aspects to set up this event. Like, will there be enough greens, will it snow, will my truck get a flat, how am I going to stage all of this first thing in the morning, what if it rains, what if we get a blizzard, and, what if this, what if that? I’m a big what iffer! But this can be good for planning. Thank Goodness I have Mr. Steve Clause to help me. And he does. Every year – he is part of the spirit too. I believe he loves this event as well. He would miss it if I didn’t do it. He says to me – you always do the what if, but it always is fine. He’s right.
There have been so many “behind the scenes” things I’ve dealt with which no one has any idea. I thought, I should jot down some of the interesting things that happened to me as a result or at this workshop. I started to do so today. And here they are…
The Mystery Coat:
A black mid-length winter coat was left by the fire pit outside on the workshop day. After everyone leaves, I usually sit outdoors by the fire pit with Steve to relax and talk about the day. When I put out word via emails and Facebook posts to the attendees the day after the workshop that someone left their black coat here, no one from the workshops ever claimed it. The coat fits me PERFECTLY. I needed a new coat at that time and it is larger than my usual coat size, yet, somehow it fitted just right. Was it the Christmas spirits who left it here? Still a mystery. There was a small red ball ornament in the pocket.
Almost Arrested for Taking Berries:
I got yelled at by a guy driving past a road side area where I had pulled over to cut “red berries” from wild shrubs for a KB workshop. It was a remote, nowhere area. He pulled up quickly out of nowhere too, with tires coming to a halting screech. He busted out of his car, came stomping over with a note pad in hand, and said he was going to REPORT ME for stealing red berries from a property. I remember feeling so annoyed because I was finally “in a moment” of having fun. I apologized profusely and explained I had no idea this was private property. Then he asked me, “Well, why do you want those anyways?” When I explained to him it was for the holiday workshop and that I teach about plants too, he calmed down and let me go. I didn’t dare mention the words: Kissing Balls.
The Old Rusty Wreath Frame
As mentioned above, a ritual of cleaning takes place every year in the workshop space. Well, one year, I saw something tucked behind my big black oil tank in my basement. What is that, I wondered. I pulled and tugged at it and out it came with a force. It was an “old, rusty wreath frame of a very large size.” Seriously, folks. This was not put there by me. I didn’t even make big wreaths yet. Was it left behind from whomever owned this house over 30 years ago? Or did Santa leave it there? Now, if that is not weird, what is? I won’t toss out that wreath frame. It hangs in the workshop space. I find it would be bad luck to remove it.
The Big Balls
Okay, we have, over the years, made the biggest balls of them all. Every year, I have to remind all the ladies that if they make them too big, they will fall off the hooks. We keep to measurement guidelines now, but one friend did tell me, she saw her kissing ball rolling down her street on a very snowy and windy day from her kitchen window. She made her kissing ball too big, and thus, it was too heavy and fell off the hook. We don’t make them “monster” sizes anymore but they do come out larger and better, in my opinion, than what you see in retail. OK, so big balls it is! But I did have to enforce no more monster balls, after all, this isn’t Halloween, it is Christmas! LOL.
Every year, I offer one or two day time workshops. And a week night workshop. This year, I decided to skip the weeknight offering. It is just too dark and cold outside. The greens are outdoors but we hold the workshops indoors. To lug all the greens to the indoors in the dark was becoming too much for me. One year, after everyone left, I switched on a spot light pointing outdoors to finish up some work on some items outside in the dark, and when I clicked on the spot light, there – standing right in-front of me was a deer. I was like, OMG! It startled me. I said out loud, “You stay away from my greens!” And right then, his nose glowed red. Then I heard the jingle bells of a sleigh take off.
No, we don’t get high here but the smell of the greens is so over powering in the workshop space, we may get that tinsel type high from the wonderful aromas of the fresh greens. But the natural high I get from the workshop event lasts well after everyone leaves from the workshop. In the first few years, the workshop would run all day, even into the night. I had so much adrenaline after it was over that I often sat in my kitchen trying to deflate. Mr. Santa Steve is asleep in bed by then. But I can’t fall asleep, even though I’m usually exhausted, so I start looking at all the wonderful photos of everyone from the day’s activities on my iPhone. The wreaths, kissing balls, and all the smiling attendees’ faces. In more recent years, the ladies have made a day of their events. My workshop is their number one stop, and after, some will go to lunch out, or even attend another holiday event somewhere. My event transitioned into a day of activities for the attendees, not just a few hours. Pretty cool.
Knock on those wooden ornaments, I have been very lucky with the weather. We always make the next day a backup date should we get a big snowy storm, but in 10 years, that has never happened. One year, it was so warm out, we had t-shirts on – yup, global warming does exist. Santa is very good to me. He waits to bring on the snow storms after my holiday workshops. This year, I have a feeling it will be cold however, which means me working outside in the cold. Much of my preparation is done very close to the workshop date because I like things fresh. I like quality. And some of the preparation is done far in advance like now, including getting sign-ups, picking up hard good supplies, and what have you.
Well, I know there is more storytelling to tell but I can’t think of it now. I know when I work today, some of those stories will pop into my head again. If they do I will share them. In the meantime – You too could become part of the KB story. Sign-up for our workshop on Saturday, December 7th. There are still seats available. Ho, Ho, Ho…
It was a gorgeous sunny (yet very chilly outdoors) type of day at the fall craft’s fair on Saturday in Stafford, but now- for me anyways, it is planning and sign-up time for the Holiday Workshops! Here we go!
Two Lovely Ladies with Wreath and KB Made at an Evening Workshop last year!
I’m offering 3 sessions this year and seats are limited in each, so it is again, just a friendly reminder – Sign up early before it is sold out. To sign up – visit www.WORKSHOPSCT.com and you will see 3 separate posts for each type of workshop.
Beautiful Candle Centerpiece Example Made in Last Year’s Workshop
This year, in particular, it is a shorter month than usual. Why I’m offering my first workshop on 11/30/19, and then a week later is the next workshop on 12/7/19. I know folks sometimes don’t like hearing about holidays now, but alas, I have to plan ahead for everyone who wishes to attend.
Two KB Examples
I also take custom orders for wreaths and kissing balls the first weeks in December.
Extra Large Custom Wreath made by C. Testa
Just a heads-up to all – And again, thanks to everyone who visited me at my vendor table last Saturday – so fun meeting you all!